If you are planning to visit Poland, consider a beautiful hiking expedition. Striking not only for its spectacular location in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains, (part of the Carpathian Mountain range), but for the traditions that its townspeople keep alive, Zakopane, Poland is a trip back in time as well as back to nature.
When you travel in Poland, you can go to Zakopane. which is located in the south of Poland, near to the border of Slovakia (of which, the Carpathian Mountains stand as markers), and is both off the beaten path and easily accessible. Trains and buses leave for Zakopane from Krakow, taking anywhere from two-five hours. Buses are often faster, though renting a car is the fastest way to Zakopane, while giving you even more freedom to explore the incredible countryside. If you are staying in the town center, all of its gorgeous features are within walking distance.
When you travel in Poland, you can’t ask for much more from a town located at the base of 2,500-foot mountains. Immediately impressive is the folk architecture, with its elaborate, multifarious eves and door and window frames. It is so unique that it has its own name: the Zakopane style. And most likely, it won’t take long to see locals dressed in the traditional clothing from centuries back. This is not a reverting to days of old, or a day of theater: The people of the Goral culture have inhabited this area for centuries and they celebrate the ways of their ancestors each and every day. The beautiful cobble stone streets are filled with traditional artisans and street performers who do everything from unbelievable birdcalls to breath-taking fire dances. The sounds from a gentle-rushing, picturesque stream that runs through town, reminded me that, not too long ago, this water was snow thousands of feet above.
For my visit to Poland, I arrived in early June to do some hiking in Zakopane. Bus and car services are available to take you to the hiking trails. We chose a car service because it was inexpensive and it was offered by the bed and breakfast in which we were staying. The trails were surprisingly crowded when we arrived at ten in the morning, and the first mile or two was simply a long line of hikers. But at higher altitudes, the trails were much less busy.
First, waterfalls cascaded from icy-cliffs on all sides. I’d never seen such streams of water bursting forth from snow and ice. Second, even though the mountains were snow-covered (waterproof hiking boots are recommended but not essential) the air was warm, and we hiked in shorts and t-shirts.
One of the first resting places we came across was a large, ice-covered lake located in the crux of two mountains. A lodge was set up at the lake’s edge where traditional Polish food and drink was served. Nothing like a hot apple tart, (szarlotka), to keep one’s energy up when you visit Poland. As we hiked on, we began to see tiny wild flowers poking up from the patches of green in a blanket of snow. In the afternoon, we found a dry plot of rock high up in the mountains and had a hearty picnic looking down on everything below.
The trail looped and near the end we came across another icy lake with a lodge. Several horse-drawn carriages were parked outside. The exceptional beauty seemed never-ending. When we made it back to the trailhead, we took a bus back to Zakopane, where, after a memorable day of hiking, there was nothing else to do but eat a big plate of pierogi! This made for very enjoyable travel in Poland.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com